Man died in police custody after ‘avoidable delays' in getting him medical help
A Wearside dad who spent two days in police custody died following ‘avoidable delays’ in getting him emergency medical help, an inquest has heard.
Stephen Berry, died at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead on March 30, 2013 after being detained at Washington Police station.
The jury said that Mr Berry died “due to the effects of alcohol withdrawal in circumstances where there were avoidable delays to emergency medical intervention.”
The 43-year-old had been arrested at his home address in Easington Lane on Thursday, March 28, 2013 after a warrant was issued from Gateshead Magistrates’ Court for failing to appear.
Mr Berry was detained at Washington Police Station and was unable to appear at court the following day as it was Good Friday.
The jury heard that while in police custody Mr Berry – who was alcohol-dependent and had mental health issues – became increasingly unwell and collapsed.
He was taken by ambulance to hospital where he sadly died on March 30.
The inquest was told that officers dismissed Mr Berry’s symptoms when he was seen sweating, shaking, and having difficulty breathing.A post mortem into his death found that medical cause of death was alcohol withdrawal which had lead to a cardiac arrest.
Stephen’s family has had to wait more than six years for the inquest to take place.
The force said it had since changed its procedures to closely monitor the welfare of those in custody.
An IPOC report into the death confirmed that two custody officers accepted formal warnings for misconduct over Mr Berry’s death, however two police sergeants retired before gross misconduct hearings against them could be completed.
Assistant Chief Constable of Northumbria Police Rachel Bacon said: “Our thoughts continue to be with the family and friends of Stephen Berry following his tragic death in 2013.
“As a Force, we take the welfare of people in our custody extremely seriously with officers and staff thoroughly trained in caring for detainees.
“The importance of risk assessments, observations and treatment of people who are alcohol dependent or suffering alcohol withdrawal are important factors of this training.
“I take note of the findings made at the inquest into Mr Berry’s death which concluded on Wednesday.
“In the years since 2013, procedures have been reviewed and many changes have been made, which was accepted at the inquest.
“This is very much an ongoing process to ensure we continue to meet the needs of those who come into custody.
“As with any death in police custody, an immediate referral was made to the Independent Office for Police Conduct who carried out an investigation.”